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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Food Allergies

A food allergy occurs when your body's immune system responds to harmless food as if it were a threat to your body. It is actually a 2-step process. When you have your first exposure to a food that your body is allergic to, your immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to that allergen. The next time you are exposed to that allergen, you will have an allergic reaction to that food.

Symptoms of food allergy

If you are allergic to a particular food, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

- Itching in your mouth or swelling
- GI symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps and pain
- Hives or eczema
- Tightening of the throat and trouble breathing
- Drop in blood pressure

If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical help immediately, especially if you have trouble breathing. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can lead to death.

You may need to see an allergist to figure out which food(s) you are allergic to. Once you know the foods that cause on allergic reaction, it is important to avoid them. Some foods are obvious and are easy to avoid, but if you are allergic to something like peanuts, for example, it is important to read food labels which now have warnings on them about allergies.

If you have food allergies, you should wear a medical alert bracelet that identifies your allergies in case you have a severe reaction and are unable to communicate.

Here are some links to more detailed information about food allergies:

Food Allergy (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Tips to Remember: Food Allergy (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology)

Allergy Blood Testing (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)

Allergy Skin Tests (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

Food Allergies: Reducing the Risks (Food and Drug Administration) - PDF

Egg, Milk or Wheat Allergies: What to Avoid (InteliHealth, Harvard Medical School)

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